Inspired by Debating Matters

from Gujurat to Leeds… DM has been inspiring young people around the globe!

Debating Matters’ reach has extended further than Europe in the last two years. In 2020, former director of DM and current curriculum manager for Mathematics at MidKent College, Tony Gilland, developed a highly successful new pilot debating tournament – DMGBIN – for 16- to 18-year- old students in India and the UK which was inspired by his work at Debating Matters.

On Sunday 27th February this year, the final of the second DMGBIN tournament took place. Over four months 16 schools, eight from the UK and eight from India, battled it out for a place in the final debate. Each school competed in three debates over Zoom to win a place in the semi-finals and then the final of the tournament. This year’s finalists were newcomers Navrachana International School, from Gujarat in India and longstanding DM participants Oakwood Park Grammar School from Kent in the UK.

Joining DMGBIN at the final for the prize-giving ceremony was one of the founders of Debating Matters, Claire Fox, director of the Academy of Ideas and an independent peer in the UK’s House of Lords, and Geoff Kidder, CEO of the boi charity which currently hosts DM. It was an exciting occasion with a completely new debate motion and Topic Guide: ‘Restricting hate speech is more important than protecting freedom of speech’. The content of the debate was challenging for both teams as the context is quite distinct in each country. Communal and religious tensions in India give rise to significant concerns about the impact of hate speech which are not directly comparable to concerns in the UK. However, both teams did a fantastic job of demonstrating a solid familiarity with all the arguments and were insightful and forceful in their defence of the importance of free speech or in arguing for restrictions.

Throughout the whole DMGBIN tournament it has been especially rewarding to hear students get so much out of engaging with their peers in a completely different country, and about issues of importance or interest to them all, but often in very different contexts. As Izzy Ottembrait commented, ‘Debating with the teams from India provided a broadened world-wide perspective and it certainly made the debates more challenging due to the global examples and experiences used.

This was a perspective endorsed by Lily Rana, the teacher from Navrachana International School, who said her team ‘had a remarkably rewarding experience, particularly, in recognising the onus on youth in their role as global citizens.

At this year’s final, the judges took a long time to make their deliberations, a real testament to both teams but finally they came to a decision and awarded the win to Oakwood Park Grammar School who argued FOR the motion. Congratulations to Oakwood Park DMGBIN champions 2021/22!

Congratulations also go to Navrachana International School, runners up in their debut year of competing in Debating Matters.  The Best Individual prize was awarded to Ashwin Knight of Oakwood Park and the Highly Commended prize went to Ashvika Menon of Navrachana. The tournament was organised by volunteer DM supporters and we are grateful to all of them. To find out more about the competition email: tony.s.gilland@gmail.com or Follow DMGBIN on Twitter @dmgbin

A bit closer to home, the DM format returned to live action in Leeds in January of this year as the annual Yrs 10 & 11 debating competition run by The Leeds Salon in partnership with Switalskis Solicitors took place.

The Final of the competition was on Wednesday 30th March at Thackray Medical Museum between qualifying round winners Abbey Grange Academy, Carr Manor Community School and Outwood Grange Academy.

In a lively and competitive round-robin style format, each team played to their strengths across the six debates. The students demonstrated a good knowledge of the debate topics and how to defend their arguments. However, in the end, there can only be one winner so congratulations to Isabel Dixon-Hardy, Delphi Harrison, Abi Hector-Goma and Madeleine Wells from Abbey Grange CofE Academy who were declared 2022 champions by the judges!

Congratulations also to the three individual prize winners: Best Individual, Greta Hirschhorn-Nolan from Carr Manor Community School; Highly Commended Individual, Isabel Dixon-Hardy of Abbey Grange CofE Academy and Commended Individual Alhasan Ahmed of Outwood Grange Academy.

And grateful thanks to venue partners Thackray Medical Museum, as well as prize partners The University of Law (Leeds), and award-winning multi-media company, Tectonic Interactive.

From everyone at DM, congratulations to Paul Thomas, co-founder of The Leeds Salon for managing to organise yet another successful competition, engaging 14 to 16 years-olds in difficult contemporary issues such as “Tech companies should act to stop online misinformation”, “Technological progress will not solve society’s environmental issues”, and “Vaccine passports benefit society”  and very well done to all involved!

Spotlight on a DM Alumna: Julia Dannemann-Freitag

One of the stars of the first ever DM Berlin championship back in 2015 was Julia Dannemann-Freitag who is now a regular judge for the competition. Debating Matters caught up with Julia this year to ask her about her first experience of debating and why she continues to stay involved:

DM: Julia, it’s great to catch up with you. Can you remind us when and how you first became involved with DM?
JDF: Yes, it was in 2015, when Debating Matters was running a pilot programme in Berlin. I only found out about it because I ran into a friend of mine on the way out of the school building one day and she asked me whether I wanted to come along to a “debating club” she had heard her English teacher tell the class about that needed another person to fill in for someone who had dropped out last minute.
DM: And what do you remember about that first competition? Do you remember the motion for instance?

JDF: Well, it was a lot smaller scale than the competition has been recently. There were only six schools participating and the debates were being held in two rooms. My motion was on whether performance enhancing drugs should be used in sports (the first time I was seriously asked to defend a position I didn’t believe in) and I know I was up first and really quite nervous because I still viscerally remember my hand shaking so hard that it was hard to read my speech to begin with. Thankfully that all fell away quite quickly though as I got into the flow of the debate and I got a chance to enjoy myself.
DM: It’s great when that happens, when you overcome your nerves, I think a lot of debaters will relate to that! Did you learn anything from the experience and did DM inspire you or make you think about things in a different way? 
JDF: Debating Matters was my first real exposure to formal debating and as such I learnt quite a lot about formulating arguments effectively. For instance, how to research the topic of the motion, how to state my points in a concise way and how to see a topic from a perspective that isn’t mine. To get good at debating I also needed to learn not only how to tackle an opponent’s argument, but how to counter its strongest, best-stated form. All of these are skills that I’ve found rather important outside of debating too, as they improved my ability to effectively understand what others are saying and make me clearer when I respond.
DM: That’s really great to hear! And what are you up to these days?
JDF: My greatest interest is for the field of quantum gravity, which is why I’m now in my final year, studying for an MSc in physics with theoretical physics at Imperial College London.
DM: Wow, congratulations, that’s really impressive and an area of quantum physics we definitely need to understand more! We wish you luck in your final year.  But before we let you get back to your studies, can you leave us with one final point on why you think debating is important?
JDF: Maybe “important” is too pompous a way to put it, but I certainly think that the skills that it teaches can be very useful. Beyond that, having to defend opinions that aren’t your own can make it easier to see other people’s perspectives in the future. However, my main reason for doing it has always been that I find it very fun.
DM: Thank you Julia, it’s been a pleasure catching up with you.

Julia is an MSci student at Imperial College London where she studies physics with a concentration in theoretical physics. Her interests lie primarily in quantum gravity, particularly discrete approaches. Her master’s project is on the spectral geometry of causal sets. 

If you’re a DM alumnus or alumna we’d love to hear from you and what you’re up to right now.  Please get in touch and let us know your news by emailing mo@theboi.co.uk

Sabine Beppler-Spahl: on launching Debating Matters in Berlin

As Debating Matters returns from yet another fantastic championship in Berlin, we asked our lead German partner, Sabine Beppler-Spahl, what inspired her to bring the championship to Berlin.

“As chair of the Freiblickinstitute, whose purpose is to organise public discussion on political and scientific issues, I felt the chance to host Debating Matters in Berlin was an opportunity not to be missed! Although Britain has a long tradition of schools debates, in Germany debating societies are not as well established.  But there is taste for serious, content-based debating in this country too!

“As supporters of a liberal academic education we believed it was important to encourage students to learn the art of questioning, reasoning and debating – to remind ourselves that there is never only one way to look at an argument. Fact-checking has its place and abstract knowledge is important, but how far can they help us to understand the world?  If we really want to know why we believe what we do, we should allow our ideas to be challenged and be able to debate them robustly and civilly. 

“Freiblickinstitut has taken over the organisation of the competition on a voluntary basis. Many of its members have helped with the preparation of the debates, and on running the day itself. But DM Berlin has been successful also due to the support of many others – the team in Britain, the enthusiasm of teachers and judges, and several event partners such as HeGo Biotec, World and Press, and the UE University which has accommodated the championships and provided catering for the events.

“We use the DM Topic Guides as a basis for the debates but we adapt them to account for the specificities of the German situation. We debate in English (a real testament to the English teaching our schools!) and despite our initial worries about tackling such complex issues in a foreign language, participants have been highly motivated, well-prepared, and able to argue their case convincingly. As communications consultant and frequent DM judge, Phoebe Blackburn wrote on her LinkedIn blog:   

It was a pleasure to hear the genuine clash of ideas backed by thorough research and, crucially, sometimes if not always, interaction, re-adjustment, truly listening to an adverse opinion then, changing tack. Or standing by one’s argument, impassioned, with further evidence and debate.

“We at Freiblick believe it’s important to continue to host Debating Matters because every generation needs thinkers and questioners and we’re looking forward to the next Berlin Championship!”

Sabine Beppler-Spahl, chair Freiblickinstitute e.V.

Nelson-Mandela-Schule emerge victorious at the Debating Matters Berlin Championship 2022

An enthusiastic and well-researched team from Nelson-Mandela-Schule saw off competition from seven other Berlin schools this year to emerge as victors in the Debating Matters Berlin Championship 2022.

The team competed in three group-stage debates and, in the final, took on fellow group-stage winners Schadow-Gymnasium to argue against the motion “Tech companies should act to stop online misinformation”. Both teams were well-prepared and argued passionately for their side of the motion. That meant the panel of judges – Professor Stefan Chatrath, Professor Oleg Dik and DM alumnus Julia Dannemann-Freitag – had a tough job on their hands coming to a final decision! However, Nelson-Mandela-Schule eventually emerged victorious, rounding off an intellectually thrilling day of debate organised by Freiblickinstitut and hosted by University of Europe for Applied Sciences (UE) on its Berlin Campus.

Judges Stefan Chatrath & Julia Dannemann-Freitag present Nelson-Mandela-Schule with their winners’ prizes.

During the final, Robert Leonhardt and Vasco de Menezes from Schadow-Gymnasium offered a range of convincing and well-researched arguments for how tech companies could do more to address online misinformation. But ultimately, it was Emily Reid and Luis Rosefeldt’s impassioned and consistent defence of free speech that tipped the judges, who awarded them overall winners of the competition.

The Schadow-Gymnasium team receive their runners-up prizes.

Students from across Berlin arrived at UE’s Berlin campus to take part in the competition, ably supported by their dedicated teachers from:

· Eckener-Gymnasium                         · Gottfried-Keller-Gymnasium

· Hans-Carossa-Gymnasium             · Humboldt-Gymnasium

· Nelson-Mandela-Schule                   · Paulsen-Gymnasium

· Schadow-Gymnasium                      · Werner-von-Siemens-Gymnasium

Judges from UE joined others from the worlds of publishing, journalism, arts & culture, business, public services and many more, to put the young debaters on the spot to develop and justify their arguments and compete for a range of prestigious prizes. This year, the prize partners were World and Press, Stadtwandel Verlag as well as co-hosts Freiblickinstitut. A German, liberal think-tank, the Freiblickinstitut stands for freedom and progress, and regularly hosts debates on a range of current issues from politics and the economy to science and art. The institute has been a longstanding champion of DM Berlin and its ethos of open debate.

The judges awarded Emily Reid of Nelson-Mandela-Schule the coveted Best Individual prize for her tenacious approach and attention to detail, Thi Quan Tinh Tran from Humboldt-Gymnasium received a Highly Commended prize and Werner-von-Siemens-Gymnasium’s Ferdinand Johnen was awarded the Commended prize.

Clockwise from top: a warm welcome to the UE Berlin Campus; Best Individual Emily Reid with Freiblickinstitut’s Sabine Beppler-Spahl; Highly Commended Thi Quan Tinh Tran & Commended Ferdinand Johnen.

Mr Fischer, Head of the English Department at Werner-von-Siemens-Gymnasium, said of the competition:

“We have really enjoyed taking part in the competition and the students were extra motivated by the setting and the people present and the care taken and by the schedule. Everything has been put together so neatly with an eye for detail and I was really impressed by the passion and energy displayed all day, which really made it a memorable event. It really has been the best competition we have taken part in in a while, and we are extremely motivated to come back!”

NOTES

For further information about the event, the Debating Matters competition or to request photos or interviews with students, teachers, judges and other participants, please contact Mo Lovatt on mo@theboi.co.uk  

Created in 2002, Debating Matters is a UK-based debating competition. DM offers a fresh, accessible and engaging format for debating contemporary real-world issues, with an emphasis on substance, not just style of debating, and the importance of taking ideas seriously. Follow Debating Matters on Twitter: @DebatingMatters

Debating Matters is a project of the boi charity. For more information on the charity, please visit www.theboi.co.uk

For further information about the competition, visit www.debatingmatters.com

For further information about Freiblickinstitut, visit www.freiblickinstitut.de

Announcing the Debating Matters Berlin 2022 Championship!

We’re delighted to announce that Debating Matters is returning to Berlin – live and in person, for our seventh DM Berlin championship.

On Thursday 16 June, during a full day of lively debates, eight Berlin schools will battle it out to become Debating Matters Berlin 2022 Champions. Along the way, teams will have to tackle such issues as whether technical progress can solve our environmental problems, whether Western museums should repatriate their cultural artefacts and if UBI can solve our economic and social problems.  The group stages will culminate in the winners of each group taking on the topic, Tech companies should act to stop online misinformation in the grand final.

This year, teams will be competing from Eckener-Gymnasium, Schadow Gymnasium, Paulsen-Gymnasium, Hans-Carossa-Gymnasium, Humboldt-Gymnasium, Gottfried-Keller-Gymnasium, Werner-von-Siemens-Gymnasium and Nelson-Mandela-Schule.

Berlin students in the audience during 2020’s DM Berlin Championship

Debating Matters has always felt honoured to work with Freiblickinstitut to bring the competition to Germany, and we are delighted to do so again this year. We’re also very pleased, after a year of debates on Zoom, to be back at the University of Europe for Applied Sciences and we’d like to thank both our partners for their hard work and commitment to making this year’s event possible.

At the heart of the championship, as always, will be Debating Matters unique brand of ‘substance over style’ debating, the unparalleled interaction between judges and debaters, plenty of audience involvement, and a commitment to taking ideas seriously. For details of the full competition, please visit the EVENT page of our website and, if you’re in Berlin on 16 June and would like to be in the audience for the event, please get in touch with Mo Lovatt. 

Demanding debates and a debut winner: Bacup & Rawtenstall Grammar School and Springwood High School take the final crowns of the year

A fitting way to approach the end of a challenging but inspiring academic year

It has been an eventful academic year as Debating Matters has moved our unique format online to provide a much-needed dose of public-spirited debate and discussion in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. The most recent of our online championships provided a fantastic illustration of how essential Debating Matters can be, and gave a great justification for the work done to make sure Debating Matters can thrive online.

It was also a great demonstration of how the Debating Matters format allows new schools to thrive, with both Springwood High School making their debut in the competition but managing to come away with the crown. Bacup & Rawtenstall, winning with a unique approach, also demonstrated another Debating Matters ideal: “Debating Matters because ideas matter”.

Of course, a debate needs two sides and the June’s other finalist, Invicta Grammar School, along with July’s runner up Ysgol Gyfun Plasmawr, showed a great range of arguments as they beat other schools to make it through to the final. Credit also to all the schools competing in our final two championships: Oundle School, The Kingston Academy, The Burgate School and Sixth Form, and St George’s College, Weybridge – in June – and Cirencester College, Richmond upon Thames College, Jersey School for Girls, and John Hampden Grammar School in July. 

If the Debating Matters Online format proved itself towards the beginning of the academic year, where Maidstone Grammar School and Barnard Castle School won the first two championships, as we approached the end the online format has only become more polished, and our new series of Public Policy Championships have given schools and colleges the chance to delve into pressing cultural, scientific and social issues.

For these championships, it was great to release a new and newly updated range of the famed Debating Matters topic guides, covering topical issues such as whether governments should impose extra duties on Universities to uphold free speech, if vaccine passports will benefit societyif the UK should reduce the foreign aid budget, what should be done with controversial statues and contested museum artefacts, whether UBI is a solution to social and economic problems, and many more

We offer our thanks to the Politics and Economics Research Trust (PERT) for their support of these Public Policy Championships. We knew from the first of these championships, held earlier in the year, how vital it is to give pupils the chance to debate these pressing public policy issues and June’s championship has proven this again.

Many pupils stood out in these debates, and came away with prizes generously donated by organisations such as Hodder Education, Prospect Magazine, Oxford University Press, and the Academy of Ideas. Over the past year, as society has faced considerable challenges, the support of these organisations has been more important than ever and Debating Matters offers thanks for their generous support.

The students getting their hands on individual prizes were, for the July competition, Cindy Igeme of Richmond upon Thames College who won ‘Commended’, Katie Mutyambizi of Ysgol Gyfun Plasmawr, who won ‘Highly Commended’, and the ‘Best Individual’ of the competition went to Zara Bek from winning school Springwood High School. In June, the winners were Niamh Miller from The Burgate School who won ‘Commended’, Asher Ghafoor from Bacup and Rawstenstall, who won ‘Highly Commended’, and the ‘Best Individual’ of the competition went to Annie from Invicta Grammar school.

Whilst Debating Matters relished the chance to take the format online, allowing schools from around the country to debate each other, and allowing us to once again bring the format to Germany for this year’s Debating Matters Berlin, the year has presented significant challenges for schools. That’s why we want to recognise the hard work and dedication of teachers up and down the country who have responded to these challenges with passion and inspiration.

However, Debating Matters – like many pupils, teachers, parents and others – certainly looks forward to when schools are able to return to normal and in-person Debating Matters Championships can return!

Barnard Castle take the crown in first Debating Matters Public Policy Championship

A brilliant series of performances gave Barnard Castle School the victory in a challenging week of online debate in Debating Matters’ first Public Policy Championships. It was a fantastic series of debates over the week, showcasing a range of new Debating Matters Topic Guides and a renewed focus on real-world policy discussions.

Students debated a range of contemporary issues, from whether vaccine passports benefit society to whether the UK should reduce its foreign aid budget, whether the government should intervene to discourage unhealthy lifestyles and whether monuments to controversial figures should be torn down.

In all cases, the debates were hard-fought with the schools demonstrating their research and carefully crafted arguments. There was a hard battle for victory in each of the discussions, with the winners being those who impressed the judges – and stood up to their questioning – by driving home arguments gleaned from the extensive resources available in the new Topic Guides.

It was a feisty team from Burnley College who made it through to the final, but they were narrowly beaten by Barnard Castle, who managed to convince the judges that removing controversial monuments did more to erase the past than come to terms with it. Burnley, however, gave a great account of themselves, and impressed in their victories over Havering Sixth Form College and Queen Elizabeth’s Grammar School, Faversham in the group stages. Barnard Castle had battled their way through debates against The Ecclesbourne School and Queen Mary’s College, all of whom put up stiff resistance.

As ever, each of the schools were put under pressure by panels of expert judges, who encouraged the pupils to further develop their arguments and think quickly on their feet. Debating Matters offers thanks to all those judges who volunteered their time to help develop the next generation of young minds.

In addition to the prizes for the winner and runners-up teams, Debating Matters was delighted to award prizes for the top three ‘best individuals’ who had impressed the judges throughout the competition with consistently great questions. Winning the Commended (third place) prize was Isabelle Passmore from Burnley College, and the Highly Commended (second place) prize was Tadgh Kerin from Havering College. But the Best Individual from the tournament was Anna Coyle of the victorious Barnard Castle, as she seriously impressed the judges with her intellectual nimbleness and range of arguments.

In addition to the three prize winners, the judges were very keen to ensure that the wide variety of great contributions were acknowledged, which meant ‘honourable mentions’ were given to: Isaac Tompkinson, Katie Skelton and Pandora Deaville from The Ecclesbourne School; Jamie Spice and Emily Jack of Queen Elizabeth’s Grammar School, Faversham; Megan Lucas of Burnley College; and Ella Thomas and Adam Cramer of Queen Mary’s College.

The Debating Matters Public Policy Championships will return very soon to offer the opportunity for a fresh set of young people to battle it out over important public debates confronting society.

Announcing the Debating Matters Public Policy Championships!

Debating Matters is delighted to announce its next three championship events. As ever, these championships will see schools from around the country take on their peers in a series of debates overseen by panels of eminent judges. 

At the heart of the championships, as always, will be Debating Matters unique brand of ‘substance over style’ debating, the unparalleled interaction between judges and debaters, plenty of audience involvement, and a commitment to taking ideas seriously. 

Debating Matters has always prided itself on encouraging young people to dig into the complex debates at the heart of contemporary discussions. That’s why we’re delighted that these next three championship events will all have a specific focus on public policy issues, from whether the foreign aid budget should be cut to whether social media sites should clamp down on disinformation, whether controversial statues should be removed or whether we need a universal basic income in the aftermath of the pandemic. 

“We’re thrilled to be working on this unique set of championships thanks to the support of PERT. Seeing young people explore ideas and develop their arguments is one of the great privileges of Debating Matters. As ever, we can’t wait to bring Debating Matters’ brand of tough, respectful and intellectually adventurous discussion to schools right across the country.”
Geoff Kidder, chief executive, boi charity

These issues and more will feature in a new series of topic guides, written specifically with a public policy focus which will have young people debating some of the key contemporary issues of the day. 

In addition to arguing their side of the motion, competitors will have the opportunity to record their own opinions on the topics under discussion, and discuss how their opinions of the issues changed as they went through the process of preparing for the debate. Debating Matters will be giving the competitors the chance to have their say and get involved in a project which seeks to understand how young people think about contemporary issues. 

Debating Matters is delighted that this series of Public Policy Championships is supported by the Politics and Economics Research Trust (PERT). 

If you are a teacher, student or potential judge who wants to get involved, please email Mo Lovatt at mo@theboi.co.uk

For press or other public enquiries, email Jacob Reynolds at jacob@theboi.co.uk

Debating Matters returns to Berlin and Humboldt Gymnasium emerge victors

Debating Matters’ unique online championships made a virtual stop in Berlin for a series of high-quality and challenging debates, with the Humboldt Gymnasium beating five other schools from around Berlin to become the Debating Matters Online Berlin Champions.

The championship saw the teams tackle issues such as whether governments should intervene to improve unhealthy lifestyles, whether populism is a threat to democracy, and whether privacy is outdated in the digital age.

After the teams tackled these debates in the group stages, it was Hans Carossa Gymnasium and Humboldt Gymnasium who emerged as the strongest two teams and so progressed to the final to debate whether monuments to controversial historical figures should remain. It was a very hard-fought debate, with many excellent contributions from the floor. too, as representatives from all six schools returned for the final to test their ideas and improve their arguments. However, it was the team from Humboldt Gymnasium who emerged as victors.

In addition to the prizes for the winner and runners-up teams, Debating Matters was delighted to award prizes for the top three ‘best individuals’ who had impressed the judges throughout the competition with consistently great questions. Winning the Commended (third place) prize was Victoria Santos Reschke from Schadow Gymnasium, and the Highly Commended (second place) prize was Petar Lolovic from Gottfried Keller Gymnasium. But the Best Individual from the tournament was Diane Langeloh from Humboldt Gymnasium.

The range of contributions really highlighted the excellent standard of debate, and students from all schools taking part – Bertha von Suttner Gymnasium, Gottfried Keller Gymnasium, Hans Carossa Gymnasium, Leibniz Gymnasium, Schadow Gymnasium as well of course as the winners, Humboldt Gymnasium – deserve praise.

Indeed, we hope to welcome any interested students from the day to the Debating Matters Alumni Network, as a way to stay in touch with and stay involved in the competition. We hope to see some of the pupils as future chairs and judges!

Debating Matters has always felt honoured to work with the Freiblickinstitut to bring the competition to Germany, and even if we may have been joining our colleagues in Berlin virtually, the chance to meet minds across the continent is always hugely appreciated, so we thank the Freiblickinstitut for their hard work and commitment.

Debating Matters will be continuing its online championships for a little longer yet, but we look forward to resuming events in person, in line with government guidance, at the earliest opportunity.

The Ecclesbourne School power through as Debating Matters Online Champions for January!

The third Debating Matters Online Championship ends with Ecclesbourne victorious

Six schools from around the country spent much of January thinking hard about and debating some of the key questions of our time. With pandemic restrictions still in place, Debating Matters was delighted to continue to jump online to offer its unique approach to schools’ debating. 

After a hard fought competition, with superb performances from both teams, it was The Ecclesbourne School who ended up champions, beating Gosforth Academy in an exceptional final where Ecclesbourne defended the motion ‘Western museums should repatriate cultural artefacts’. 

The competition saw The Ecclesbourne School win their group stage debates against University Technical College Norfolk and Havering College, with Gosforth Academy likewise topping their group which contained Oundle School and St John Rigby College. All six schools fielded excellent teams with spirited performances from all debaters. It was clear from the very beginning of the tournament that debaters had spent their time with the Debating Matters Topic Guides, reading through the introductory essays produced by the boi charity and delving into the further reading. 

Indeed, such was the quality on offer that many of the debates finished as split decisions from the judging panels, which, as ever in Debating Matters, consisted of three eminent individuals from the arts, politics, business and the media. Debating Matters is extremely grateful for their involvement. 

Given the wide variety of excellent points being made throughout the tournament, Debating Matters was delighted to recognise a number of individuals in the prize giving. Adam Cassidy of Gosforth Academy took the Commended prize and Ruby Rowlands of The Ecclesbourne School won Highly Commended. However, it was Lyra Christie of Gosforth Academy who took the highly coveted Best Individual prize, after impressing in her group stage debate and her excellent and thoughtful performance in the final. In addition, Amelie Holtby of Oundle School, Syd Orchard of Havering Sixth Form College, Ornella Drake of University Technical College Norfolk and Kieran Elison from St John Rigby College also all won honourable mentions for their great points and good research. 

Debating Matters often refers to the teachers as the true ‘unsung heroes’ of the competition, as they spend significant amounts of time preparing their pupils and encouraging them to delve deeply into the subjects. As ever, we thank all the teachers for their time and dedication, especially under the current circumstances. 

Louise Dawson, the teacher from The Ecclesbourne School, had this to say in reaction to their victory: 

“We are in a state of shock! Everyone in the team has been in touch to say how much they enjoyed the whole experience. They worked so hard and I am very proud of them. We entered the competition with no expectations of doing anything more than taking part. We never expected to get this far let alone win. The students have learned so much and greatly appreciated the respect the judges have shown through their tough questioning. The students keep asking me: what next? It is no exaggeration to say that Debating Matters has literally changed their lives. This has been the best thing in a dark time.”

Similarly, Robert MacDonald of Oundle School, who’s team only just missed out on reaching the final, reacted:

“Debating Matters was very welcoming. It is a very professional competition yet very accessible to all, and our pupils were well signposted towards what they would need to do, whilst also treated as mature debaters.”

To find out how to get involved in future competitions, please email Mo Lovatt dm@theboi.co.uk